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From Mauka to Makai: Changing Landscapes on Lānaʻi

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The Lānaʻi We Know

The story of Lānaʻi's landscape is a reflection of shifting relationships between people and place. Native Hawaiians, who thrived on Lānaʻi sustainably for hundreds of years, were experts at living within the wealth and limitation of their natural environment. While some of their physical impact on the landscape remain visible today with heiau (sites of ceremonial and spiritual significance) and loko iʻa (fishponds), the majority of landscape changes occurred post-Western contact in Hawaiʻi.

As more foreigners arrived to Lānaʻi, the landscape was altered to leverage resources for economic gain.

Modern economic industries such as ranching, pineapple, and most recently, tourism, have left lasting impacts on the island's landscape. From Mauka to Makai: Changing Landscapes on Lānaʻi invites you on a journey to explore Lānaʻi's past as a way to better understand the Lānaʻi we know today.

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Kōʻele was once a bustling community. The hub of ranching operations on the island, Kōʻele was the major upland community in Lānaʻi's modern history. Though not as famous as the pineapple plantation era, ranching was actually the longest-run economic industry the island has ever known, with formal ranching operations running from approximately 1854 to 1951. The introduction of grazing animals such as sheep and cattle forever changed the landscape of the island as these animals steadily ate away at the native landscape. 

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Lānaʻi City

Lānaʻi City was developed in the 1920s after James Dole purchased the island in 1922. In order to support the growing pineapple industry for the island, plans for building the town were drawn up in early 1923. A native of Connecticut, Dole modeled the town's design off of the New England "town square" concept, with a park in the middle surrounded by and connected by streets laid out in a grid pattern. Many of the buildings constructed around Dole Park during this time remain and are frequented by locals today. Pine Isle Market, for example, was originally used as quarters for single men, later served as the Plantation Bakery, and then a Mer-Mart before Pine Isle opened in 1951. Our free Lānaʻi Guide App shares detailed information about changing uses of Lānaʻi City buildings.

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Pineapple Fields

The pineapple plantation era on Lānaʻi lasted for 70 years. At its peak, the island was home to the largest pineapple plantation in the world, with nearly 20,000 acres of pineapple under cultivation. Growing pineapple at this scale forever changed the island's landscape, with many of the field outlines and black plastic mulch paper still visible today.


The rise of the industry also prompted an influx of those looking for work and better lives for themselves and their families. Workers came from all over the world, including from the Philippines, Japan, Korea, China, and Puerto Rico. The multicultural society and the tight-knit community that was formed during this time is an important legacy for our island community.

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A beloved place of Lānaʻi people, Hulopoʻe holds many memories for those who have grown up and lived on the island. Though it was not always an easy place to get to, the paving of the road made this beach much more accessible. Before hotel construction began in the late 1980s, the land above Hulopoʻe Bay was clear from any buildings. The large swimming pond along the rocky coastline--"Keiki Pond," as many locals call it--was actually a man-made feature made by plantation workers during the 1951 strike as a wading pool for Lānaʻi people. Hulopoʻe is a wahi pana (storied place) on Lānaʻi and is worthy of respect and care. The Hulopoʻe-Mānele region is also designated as a protected marine conservation site and is home to one of the largest native ʻuaʻu kani (wedge-tailed shearwater) populations in the islands.

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